“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Discharged Military Members to receive Full Pay

dadt-gone

Approximately 181 veterans who were honorably discharged under the Pentagon’s 1996 “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy are entitled full separation pay. That’s according to the terms of a settlement agreement reached Monday between the American Civil Liberties Union and the federal government.

The deal applies to service members who were kicked out of the military between November 10th, 2004 and September 20th, 2011 when the act was repealed. Before today’s ruling, those members had only received half of their separation pay.

In a statement announcing the victory, Joshua Block, staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project, said,”It makes no sense to continue to penalize service members who were discharged under a discriminatory statute that has already been repealed. The amount of the pay owed to these veterans is small by military standards, but is hugely significant in acknowledging their service to their country.”

The case, a Class Action lawsuit, was filed by the ACLU on behalf  of former Air Force Staff Sergeant, Richard Collins, who served nine years before being discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Yay! We got a “Gay!”: State of the Union Round Up

On the surface it seems a bit underwhelming.

The big “gay” moment in this year’s State of the Union speech came with the President’s predicted nod to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”…

“When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight,” said the president. “When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.”

The main focus of his speech was the economy.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director, Rea Carey, issued a press release reminding the president that the economy includes millions of hard-working LGBTQIA individuals….

“President Obama spoke pointedly tonight of the need to get our country’s economy moving again, of getting people back to work, and of tackling the huge economic disparity that is hurting and hampering families everywhere. We couldn’t agree more and urge his administration and Congress to work together to ensure that everybody — including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people — have an opportunity to offer their unfettered best to America.”

Carey went on to point out that those Americans are still being hurt by federal polices,”If the president is truly serious about job creation and boosting America’s economic well-being, he must provide leadership to pass federal employment protections for LGBT people and end the costly and unjust federal marriage ban. He must also retain the safety net of services that so many people and families depend upon for their survival.”

Meanwhile, a headline over at the Gay Report blared,”Obama Has Not Evolved Tonight.”

“After one hour and fifteen minutes, President Obama did address ANY lgbt issues tonight in his State of The Union address. He has also not stated whether or not he has “evolved” on the issue on gay marriage and to come out in support for marriage equality as many gay supporters of the President touted that he might come out for gay marriage during his speech.” wrote the site’s editor.

America Blog’s John Aravosis wrote that the speech,”just feels like an awful lot less than I expected. And I wasn’t expected marriage or the ENDA executive order. But I was at least expecting him to brag about, and take credit for, lifting the ban. It almost feels like they didn’t want to talk about it. Why?”

Not everyone seemed to be expecting more, however.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director, Army Veteran Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement,“Tonight, SLDN was pleased to hear President Obama acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of our service members, including gay and lesbian Americans who wear our nation’s uniform. The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ would not have been possible without his vision and determination. And at SLDN, we are encouraged by his announcement of a new initiative to hire veterans, who are coming home to a very difficult job market.”

While it would have been great to hear the President at least acknowledge the struggle for marriage equality, especially in a  year where two states are about to become battlegrounds,  you have to admit, he’s done more the LGBTQIA community in the past four years then past presidents have done in the past two hundred and thirty-five.

The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, requiring hospital visitation rights for same gender couples, signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, not to mention the refusal to defend DOMA and a half a dozen other advancements, all happened during his administration.

Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Bottom line? We’ll take the “gay” tonight and have the faith that the President will go back to work on more action tomorrow.

State Of The Union: What the LGBTQIA Community Can Expect

As he has in the past, we can probably expect President Obama to give a nod and a shout out to the LGBTQIA community during his State of the Union address this evening.  It will, no doubt, come with recognition of last fall’s historic repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

One issue still up in the air, however, is any presidential mention of marriage equity.

“On Friday, when asked by the Washington Blade whether Obama would announce support same-sex marriage in the speech, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he wouldn’t rule “in or out” the possibility of the president endorsing gay nuptials during the address.”

He may surprise us, but let’s face it, the President hasn’t exactly been a staunch supporter, having flipped on the issue at least once and with the majority of the speech to be focused on the economy, to bring up the marriage issue tonight would indeed be historic, but the chances are pretty slim.

It is a safe bet, however,  he won’t touch on the vast inequalities still faced by the transgender community.  The trans community wasn’t included in the repeal of DADT and members of its community still face discrimination not only within the confines of the military but within a large segment of our society as well.  Again, it would be great for the President to acknowledge that discrimination tonight, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Of course, it wasn’t all that long ago that a President would  even acknowledge the queer community during the speech at all.  The first time it happened was a mere 13 years ago when, in 1999 then President Bill Clinton called for hate crimes legislation and support for ENDA.

President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Prevention Act into law in 2009, a full ten years after Clinton’s speech. Congress is still working on ENDA.

The Bush years saw a turn away from any positive reference to LGBTQIA rights at all, and instead, in a stunning move to appease the fascist right wing faction of his party, George W. used his 2004 State of the Union speech to lend his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Since 2009, President Obama has devoted at least a couple of lines to the LGBTQIA community, including two years of calling on congress to repeal the now defiant, “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell”.

President Obama  hasn’t always exactly wowed us during his support, but  one has to admit he has used his clout to advance equality where others haven’t.

Still, it would be nice to hear more, especially in a year in which at least two states, Washington and New Jersey, likely to become marriage equality battle grounds.

Josh Friedes, marriage equality director for Equal Rights Washington, tells the Washington Blade he too would like to hear some sort of acknowledgment of the marriage equality struggle,”If the president of the United States were to announce support for marriage equality, his words would serve as a catalyst for millions of conversations,” Friedes said. “And that’s what we need in Washington State as we contemplate the likelihood of a referendum on a marriage bill this fall. Indeed there is probably no person who can better increase the number of conversations than the president.”

One final note, look for Colonel Ginger Wallace, an openly lesbian intelligence officer and Lorelei Kilker, an environmental chemist who was part of the government’s class action suit to secure equal wages for women, to be in the House balcony tonight.  Both women are guests of the President and First Lady.

You can watch the State of the Union Address live on You Tube starting at 7:00 pm. Click HERE for the stream.

Rick Perry: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Was “Effective”

What is it about the current field of GOP presidential candidates? Either they can’t read the polls, don’t give a fig about what’s fair and just, or they are so broke that appealing to the right wing fascist based of the party is the only way they can wage a campaign?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has become the latest candidate to voice his support for the repealed policy, under which some 13,000  gay and lesbian service members were discharged.

During an interview with “This Week” host Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday, Perry was asked about the repeal of the law earlier this year. CBS reports that Perry played a line right off the facist right wing talking points memo, “A president of the United States changing a policy that was working well and to do it while we were at war in two different theaters, I think it was irresponsible and I truly think that he did it to respond to his political base,” Perry said.”

A CBS News poll taken last month, a full two weeks after the repeal, found that the majority of Republican voters actually SUPPORT gay and lesbians serving openly in the military.

“Perry told Amanpur that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy affecting gay military service members, which was repealed last year, “worked very well,” though he hedged on saying whether or not he would reinstate it as president,” CBS reports

He  then went on to spew the same homophobic rhetoric that led to the policy in the first place….

“When asked if he, as a former member of the Air Force, would be comfortable serving with openly gay men and women, the Texas governor said that was not a question that needs to be asked.

“If an individual in their private life makes a decision about their sexuality from the standpoint of how they’re going to practice it, that’s their business,” Perry said. “That’s the reason ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was in fact a workable policy and that’s why I would be comfortable with our country going back to that.”

Could someone PLEASE tell these candidates that hetrosexuals have been allowed to openly flaunt their sexuality..um..”private lives” in the military for over 200 years?

Perry isn’t the only GOP candidate that can’t seem to read the polls. Think Progress reports that at least three GOP presidential candidates — Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich — have verably promised to reinstate the policy.

Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted last December found that nearly eight in 10 Americans favored allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

Read the full  CBS article here.

LGBTQ Military Roundup: Transgender soldier kicked out…9th Circuit leaves DADT door open..Soldier comes out to Mom

A little over a week after the country celebrated the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the policy has reared its head again. A Louisville Transgender woman was  discharged  earlier this month from the Kentucky National Guard after serving her country for over a decade. Reports say she did tours of duty overseas,  including Bosnia and Iraq.

WFPL reports that “In 2009, a fellow soldier revealed that Staff Sergeant Rebecca Grant is transgender, and she was officially kicked out of the military two weeks before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Grant tells WFPL that “..getting rid of the policy was a step in the right direction for gay, lesbian and bisexual service members, but that transgender individuals are still unprotected…

“With education this could change, people being informed on the different issues, not being closed-minded, not being ultra-conservative. Allowing us to have the rights that we should have had as a United State citizen, we need change,” she says.

Meanwhile, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a Log Cabin Republican case against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The court in effect said that because the policy has already been overturned there is no need for the LCR’s case to go forward.  Except, as Daniel Villarreal over at Queerty points out, “The LCRs wanted a federal court to declare the law unconstitutional so that a future administration could not come back and reinstate DADT or a similar anti-gay law. They also hoped a decision against DADT would help pave the way so the thousands of soldiers discharged under the law could “get reinstatement, back pay, or other compensation for having their careers cut short.” Thanks, Ninth Circuit for nothing really.

Finally, remember the soldier who came out to his father live on Youtube the day DADT ended?  Well he’s back again, this time he came out to his mom.

The response he received is a sad one, though not unlike the response a lot of us have received from a parent or loved one. I guess the big point here is that he came out and he’s free to live his life out in the open.  The rest is up to her…

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